ESPN Source

The Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors have engaged in exploratory trade discussions on a deal that would swap the Bulls’ Carlos Boozer for the Raptors’ Andrea Bargnani, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

Other players with smaller contracts would have to be added to the deal to make the salary-cap math work, should talks indeed progress to a more serious level, but sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that both teams have given consideration to the move.

From Chicago’s perspective, sources said, Bargnani’s arrival could help address their glaring lack of 3-point shooting and brighten the overall look of its payroll, given that the Italian forward makes $5 million less than Boozer this season. Despite his well-chronicled defensive deficiencies, Bargnani would figure to be an effective pick-and-roll partner for Derrick Rose, once Rose makes his expected return from knee surgery after the All-Star break.

The biggest impediment to such a trade, sources said, is believed to be whether Toronto can realistically afford having both Rudy Gay and Boozer on its payroll beyond this season.

The Raptors, fresh off acquiring Gay from Memphis last week, have been openly shopping Bargnani, who resumed the most disappointing season of his career Wednesday night after missing 26 games with an elbow injury.

Although Toronto’s desire to upgrade its front line is an open secret — as confirmed by their long-running interest in trading for the Los Angeles Lakers’ Pau Gasol before Gasol’s foot injury this week — it’s believed that the luxury-tax implications of trading for Boozer could ultimately dissuade the Raptors from such a deal, even if Chicago proved willing.

Wow! We are really pushing to do this on the fly, and Boozer is a reasonable target because, like Bargnani, he’s always considered surplus to requirements in Chicago so we’d essentially be trading rather undesirable parts. Your problem for mine, sort of. Contract-wise, Boozer is worse than Bargnani as he makes about $5M more than Bargnani for the same duration. In total, he’s owed about $15M+ more (Chicago Salaries, Toronto Salaries). If the Raptors add on the difference in salary through some trade, then the Raptors would be in the tax! More likely, though, is that filler such as Kleiza would be included (Trade Machine trade that works). I can’t see the Bulls throwing in a pick or even any other player here, so let’s take a look at the Raptors projected lineup:

SG: DeRozan, Ross
SF: Gay, Pietrus
PF: Boozer, Johnson,
C: Valanciunas, Gray
PG: Lowry, Lucas

That is going to be one expensive lineup for a team that’s so far below .500, but more importantly, what it allows Colangelo to do is to make a case to the fans/management that this new team, as constructed, needs to be given a shot to see what they can do. And that will happen next year, of course.

Bargnani isn’t working out to anyone’s taste currently and fans would really accept an “addition by subtraction” trade, but with Boozer coming back, we might just be subtracting by subtraction. Again, like Gay, he’s a potentially All-Star caliber player who has soured on his team for reasons relating to either selfish basketball or attitude, and would come to Toronto as a 31-year old looking to….win a Championship? Hard to believe that, so it’s basically playing out the tail-end of a career for a team aiming for some respectability.

Related: Discuss Bargnani/Boozer in the forums